Witsand is known as the Whale Nursery of South Africa. This name indicates that the largest concentration of Southern Right Whale calves are born here every year on the SA coastline. The largest amount was during the 2006 season when 69 calves were born and a total of 165 whales & calves were counted. San Sebastian Bay offers sheltered conditions for this important annual activity. No boat based whale watching licence has been issued to any skipper, so all the viewing is from different land based lookout points.
Process to watch for:
If you see seagulls circling over the sea, don’t move or look away. They know what is about to happen.
The Mommy whale comes in close to just beyond the breakers, when she knows it is time to calve. She is accompanied by another adult whale, which is often a “male midwife.”
As she starts the birth process, you can see the water being twirled around fiercely by her tail. There is also evidence of blood in the water.
As the calf is born, normally whitish, the midwife pushes the 5-6 meter calf to the surface for its first breath of air. (Probably to have the same effect as humans when they get a smack on the bum)
The midwife then guides the calf onto the Moms teat, for its first meal of approx 200 litres of Moms healthy milk.
Once the calf is satisfied, and detaches from the teat, the midwife guides the calf a short distance away from the Mom.
Mom then goes through the final stage of giving birth by passing the afterbirth.
Once this birth process is over, the seagulls start diving for the feast. What a sight!
Mom and calf are then reunited, and the midwife moves on to the next Mom that needs assistance.
Mom and calf will stay swimming just beyond the breakers for the first 2 weeks, and then move into deeper water as the calf gets stronger.
Mom and calf will hang around in the Nursery, until about the last week of Nov or first week in Dec. Once the calf is strong enough to tackle the journey south, to the 40th parallel, and feeding grounds, they will depart. The main whale diet is krill and small crustacheans (planktons) which are not found in our waters. Mom sustains herself and her calf, for the duration of her stay, and feeds her calf 400-500 litres of milk per day. Road Travel can offer a free tour when staying at Barry’s Holiday Accommodation for more than two nights. Contact us to find out more.